Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cybils: SF/F YA Lightning Round N-Z

The final round: A selection of quick blurbs about some titles starting with N-Z. Books marked with a * are my favorites in this list. My favorites don't necessarily reflect any discussions or preferences of the other first round Cybils judges--nor do they represent any opinions but my own.

*Red Glove (Curse Workers, Book 2)
Holly Black
Margaret K. McElderry
If you liked White Cat, this is White Cat=n, and n+1. Red Glove's magical mafia/con/noir is built on the events of White Cat, and a complete story arc on its own, like book 1 was. Nobody else is doing this kind of stuff, and you should read it.

Mandy Hubbard
I have been getting angry about books set in Washington since Twilight. I am a sucker for books that read like the author has at least visited. Handily, Mandy Hubbard has, and then some. Ripple is a romance about a girl who's coming to terms with being a Siren, and what that means for her love life.

Slice of Cherry
Dia Reeves
Simon Pulse
I am always weirded out by Dia Reeves' books, and super glad she's writing them. Slice of Cherry is set in Portero, like Bleeding Violet was, and about two sisters who go for a horror-novel style of vigilante justice. Good, evil, and the veil between the real and maybe-not world all come into play. Actually, given how much my generation loved stuff like Evil Dead1, I'm surprised that this kind of thing hasn't caught on among YA authors.

1. Please note that I think Evil Dead is a really barfy movie, however.

*Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories
ed. Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant
Candlewick Press
The cover of this book is not all that compelling, even for steampunk fans, but don't judge. I was spoiled as a kid by extensive access to Windling/Datlow anthologies, and so I expect short story collections to get down and deliver--to deliver stories that I love or love to hate, that feel perfect or unsettling, and that offer something in a small package. While I'm pretty open-minded about the structure of short stories, a lot of anthologies miss the mark, including stuff clearly meant to be filler, advertisement, or worse, stuff that just cut off due to a time crunch. My favorite story in the bunch was This anthology focuses on taking steampunk away--temporally and physically--from Victorian England. Libba Bray's old West gang of girl bandits and, erm, clockmaker-physicists was my favorite, but I found nearly all to be strong stories.

Karen Sandler
Lee and Low (Tu Books)
Tankborn, one of the first outings from newbie imprint Tu Books, is also one that I've struggled to write about. The review on Parenthetical says what I would have said, kinda. I thought it needed some more beginning and some more time on friendship; I was thrilled to have some dystopia that felt like it wasn't pulled out of a hat.

*Texas Gothic
Rosemary Clement-Moore
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers 
Amy (Amaryllis) and Phin (Delphinium) are spending the summer house-sitting--tiny ranch-sitting--for their aunt. Amy's the grounded one, and Phin's the mad magical scientist. They can't help getting involved when a ghostly legend swirls into real-life injuries following a nearby archeological find, and it turns out that Amy might be pretty good at communing with the dead. And there's a cute cowboy next door.

The Boy from Ilysies (Libyrinth)
Pearl North
Tor Teen
I didn't read Librynth, the first book in this series, but The Boy from Ilysies has prompted me to go back and read more soon. What grabbed me was how this flips gender roles and expectations in a way that doesn't often find a home in YA SF/F.

*The False Princess
Eilis O'Neal
Egmont USA
Nalia's life is just fine until her parents tell her she's the girl who was swapped in for their daughter at birth. A prophecy predicted that the king and queen's daughter would come to harm before her sixteenth birthday--and now that the danger has passed, Nalia can take up her old name and clear out so the princess can come home. Adjusting to a new and harsher life is one thing, but Nalia suspects that the danger isn't over, and that there may be more imposters in the palace. P.S. Nalia has to change her name, of course, and give the old one to the princess, but for the purposes of this blurb, that's all you need to know.

The Gathering (Darkness Rising, Book 1)
Kelly Armstrong
Maya's paw-print birthmark might have something to do with all the mountain lions hanging around. Or maybe it has something to do with the creepy company town where she lives. Or part of her heritage that she thought was legend. Whatever it is, it's dangerous, and people are dying, and Maya's not sure whether to trust her old friend Daniel or Rafe, the new-in-town bad boy.

*The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Rae Carson
I reviewed this here. I LIKED IT A LOT GO READ IT.

*The Name of the Star (Shades of London)
Maureen Johnson
Putnam Juvenile
Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux moves to London, goes to boarding school, gets some culture shock--and finds out that she has unique skills that might help her solve the string of copycat Jack the Ripper murders happening in her neighborhood.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Michelle Hodkin
Simon & Schuster
Mara can't remember what killed her friends. They went to a house, one night. And now she lives in Florida, and she's not sure what she sees, half the time. Is it real, or is it her imagination? Why is she losing big chunks of time? The story is a slow burn, but very atmospheric and creepy.

*The Vespertine
Saundra Mitchell
This is like if you crossed the Luxe books with A Drowned Maiden's Hair, except there's no scam involved. Is she seeing a terrible future, or is she causing a terrible future?

And that's it for this year. I'm sorry that I'm not able to review everything I read. Sometimes, I just don't have anything to add to what's out there about a book, or I read it a long time ago and need to reread before I can give a thoughtful review, or whatever. Now you: go forth, read, and gobble up stories in the new year.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Cybils: SF/F YA Lightning Round G-M

The next round: A selection of quick blurbs about some titles starting with the letter G-M. (Note that some titles starting with "The" will come up under T, I think.) Books marked with a * are my favorites in this list. My favorites don't necessarily reflect any discussions or preferences of the other first round Cybils judges--nor do they represent any opinions but my own.

For the curious: Cybils by the numbers. There ended up being something like 170-180ish books nominated in the YA SF/F category that were ultimately deemed to be in the right spot and eligible. I reviewed 144 (I think), which includes everything I could borrow, everything I could buy (not part of the judging expectations, but I can buy some books, so I do), and everything I received as a review copy from publishers by the time we went to judging panel. I was reading right up until the day we made the first round shortlist. But, also, and I am sorry to say it, and I'm sure it was exacerbated this year by when the holidays fell, I know there are probably eligible books that got shipped out too late that will show up in mid-January, and I will be sad.

It's not at all easy to make the first round shortlist, either. I mean, it was easier for me because I got to be a first round judge last year, and I expected that the shortlist would reflect a group decision--that some of my favorites wouldn't be on that final list. I think every one of us in the first round group would have made a different shortlist, if it were just an individual thing; there would have been some overlap, but we would have recognized a wider range of books. What that should tell you, though, is that YA SF/F is a really, really strong category full of good reads.


*Glow (Sky Chasers)
Amy Kathleen Ryan
St. Martin's Griffin
At first glance, this looks like it's another of the many, many books this year that gets very personal about teens and fertility. A colony ship headed out to a new planet catches up with the advance team, and the colony ship is attacked, its fertile teens captured, ovum harvested. This is icky all on its own--and not treated lightly--but for me, the really interesting part of this book was the underlying theme of power/abuse of it, particularly when there's a charismatic religious leader involved. Also, I like self-rescuing people, of all sorts.

Scott Westerfeld
Simon Pulse
Despite so many recommendations, I haven't found time to get into this steampunk series yet. Goliath made me want to go back and read the rest (and not just because I was missing a chunk of context).

How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend
Gary Ghislain
Chronicle Books
This is one of the quirkier nominations this year. Firmly rooted in classic SF, it takes the alien Amazon woman stories of the past and brings them into today. By that, I mean that those stories where sexual, warrior-like women from another planet gets re-imagined in today's world, not that this solves all of the problems of those sorts of stories. Still, on the whole, I found it funny, and appreciated the nods to the past and to SF culture (Tor and Baen get shout-outs, for example). I suspect that adult readers will appreciate this as much, if not more, than teens.

Malinda Lo
Little, Brown
I like it when girls get swords and have adventures. Huntress, set in the same world as Ash, rewinds back in time to the story of Kaede and Taisin, two girls who are part of a prince's expedition to meet with a fairy queen and resolve the environmental disaster plaguing the kingdom. Fate, destiny, love (not just Kaede and Taisin's, but mother-daughter, father-daughter, etc.), power, and magic are all important themes.

Imaginary Girls
Nova Ren Suma
Dutton Juvenile
Imaginary Girls is a eerie, dreamy tale of two sisters whose relationship is hard to unravel. Chloe thinks--the whole town thinks--that her older sister Ruby is the compelling one, the one who leads all the adventures and spurs all of the misadventures. After spending time apart, Chloe finds that Ruby cares about her more than she expected, with disturbing results for reality.

Ally Condie
Dutton Juvenile
Matched is probably the most well known of the "government intrudes in teen love and lust" books of the past year, and rightly so. When Cassia is Matched with her best friend Xander, it looks like she's going to have a happy future--and when she finds out that he might not have been her true Match, she starts to wonder what else the government is wrong about. My high school ran some sort of computer-matchup program as a fundraiser, and you know we're all curious if there's a perfect ONE.

*Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Ransom Riggs (GO 'SC)
Quirk Books
Ransom Riggs' cinematic, photo-inclusive story of children in a timepocket in Wales has been slated to be a Tim Burton movie, and if you've seen even the cover of this book, you have an idea why. Jacob is seeing things, just like his grandfather. Now he wants to find out about his grandfather's childhood, about the monsters that go bump in the night, and, whether he likes it or not, about the children in the pictures.

My Favorite Band Does Not Exist
Robert T. Jeschonek
Clarion Books
I think this alternate-or-is-it-alternate-reality, weird book is a perfect read for fans of Fade to Blue. I'm not sure how to describe it (or, really, Fade to Blue), but if you liked one, try the other.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cybils: SF/F YA Lightning Round C-F

The next round: A selection of quick blurbs about some titles starting with C, D, E, or F, and one that I wasn't done reading from the A group. (Note that some titles starting with "The" will come up under T, I think.) Books marked with a * are my favorites in this list. My favorites don't necessarily reflect any discussions or preferences of the other first round Cybils judges--nor do they represent any opinions but my own.

Mike Mullin
Tanglewood Press
When the apocalypse comes, it's coming from Yellowstone. I can't turn off the TV when volcanic disaster shows are on, and I couldn't sleep after reading Ashfall, because I was too busy figuring out the priority order of life-saving tasks in the event of an eruption. If there's just one of me, I do this, and if there's a friend around, we have to buyupfoodcovertheventsfillthebathtubfinddustmasks... I've seen two eruptions in the past (from a safe distance), but it's only a matter of time.

Franny Billingsley
Briony would like to confess and be hanged. Now, if you please. Chime covers a lot of ground on emotional manipulation without necessarily focusing on abuse, and the prickly, unreliable narrator seems to be a tough one for a lot of readers. But if Charlotte Brontë wrote fantasy, this is what she'd write. Fabulous language.

Dark of the Moon
Tracy Barrett
Theseus and Ariadne retelling. You know you need more minotaurs in your life!

*Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Laini Taylor
Little, Brown
Lush, non-linear romance. Quirky Karou, an art student, draws amazing creatures in her sketchbooks, and her friends think she's got quite an imagination. Not exactly; instead of going home to milk and cookies, she goes home to monsters and demons, her much-beloved family. And she's not imagining the angel, or the closing of the doors she uses to jump around the world, running errands that involve gathering human teeth and getting paid in wishes. Her imagination only goes so far, though, and the biggest mystery to solve may be her own origin.

Drink, Slay, Love
Sarah Beth Durst
Margaret K McElderry
Vampires, vampires, everywhere--and this has a funny, my-family-is-unbearable take on the genre. After a run-in with a unicorn, safe-in-the-daylight Pearl is tasked with attending to high school, all the better to lure unsuspecting victims to the biggest vampire foodie event of them all.

Dust and Decay
Jonathan Maberry
Simon & Schuster
A worthy follow up to Rot and Ruin, one of my favorite reads from last year. The gang's back together and the simply can't stay in their isolated Californian town, waiting for the zombies to get them, so they take off in the hope of finding somewhere safe--and as always, the undead are waiting in the wings.

Claudia Gray
Harper Teen
Tess has to be an obedient servant until she and her employer reach the other side of the Atlantic, and from there, she has grand plans to make it on her own. The only problem is that they're not riding the waves on the QE2, but on the RMS Titanic. With werewolves. I love the details of everyday life in the past; I'm much more interested in stuff like fashion and food than who won what war, so this speaks to my particular historical interests.

Cat Patrick
Little, Brown
London's memory works backward. Each day, her past is gone, and the future spools out ahead in her mind. Careful note-taking helps her get by until she meets a boy she can't remember. She's tired of waiting out fights with her best friend and wondering whether she's losing her future mind, and tries to change things in order to bring her world to come into alignment.

*Fury of the Phoenix
Cindy Pon
Where Silver Phoenix was an adventure, Fury of the Phoenix is an emotional journey as much as a physical one. Ai Ling follows Chen Yong on a boat trip to find his family, and is overwhelmed by visions of her past as Silver Phoenix. Long ago, she and her tormentor, Zhong Ye, were lovers; she slowly remembers his descent and fall. This is still, I believe, based in the wuxia tradition, but from a different angle than that taken by Silver Phoenix. Pon's writing and skill at storytelling is improved by leaps and bounds in this sequel, and the story is successful in charting the tragedy and romance of the story-world's past.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cybils: SF/F YA Lightning Round A-B

If I had to sum up the past two months, it would be: Rocks fall, everyone is covered under a pile of rocks. I have been covered under a pile of books and personal, off-line things, which means that I have not reviewed the YA SF/F Cybils nominees ( as much as I would like.

So: Lightning round! A selection of quick blurbs about some titles starting with A or B. (Note that some titles starting with "The" will come up under T, I think.)

A Long, Long Sleep
Anna Sheehan
Candlewick Press
A Long, Long Sleep takes the Sleeping Beauty theme and gives it a futuristic twist. Rose has been asleep for a very, very long time, and now her parents are long gone. Now that she's awake, she finds herself in charge of an intergalactic business empire--but does she want it, or would it be better to just go back to bed? Not really a retelling, however.

Meg Cabot
A retelling of Hades and Persephone, with modern atmosphere.

Accused: The Fourth Ganzfield Novel
Kate Kaynak
Spencer Hill Press
Scientifically-induced telepathy? Check. Now Maddie has to use her waning powers to not just get herself and her boyfriend out of jail, but to keep other supernaturally-enhanced friends safe. Romance readers will probably prefer to start with book 1 in the series.

Across the Universe
Beth Revis
One of the best first chapters I've ever read. A girl who's in stasis for a journey to a new planet gets woken up--years before the colony team is set to arrive. In the meantime, the ship's society has been bent by odd leadership, and its denizens have all been intermarried so that they all look the same, so the redhead Amy, almost an artifact, is exotic.

Angelfall (Penryn and the Book of Days, Book 1)
Susan Ee
Feral Dream
Penryn's NoCal is now post-apocalypse, and she wants to get her mentally ill mother and wheelchair-user sister to safety. While on the run, they get in the middle of a war between angels, and Penryn must align herself with the beautiful Raffe to uncover her sister's whereabouts.

Anna Dressed in Blood
Kendare Blake
Tor Teen
Cas has followed in his father's footsteps, and he kills dangerous ghosts. He and his mother move to Canada so he can take on one of the most intriguing: Anna Dressed in Blood, who kills everyone who enters her haunted home. Anna's not like the others, though, so how can he stop her from killing again?

Ilsa J. Bick
Egmont USA
Alex is out hiking when an electromagnetic pulse wipes out--well, she doesn't exactly know. She "adopts" a young girl named Ellie, and with Tom, a solider she meets, she's got to figure out how to keep herself safe, not just from the zombies that were created by the pulse, but by the societies that have cropped up in the absence of all electronics.

Ashes, Ashes
Jo Treggari
Most of the population got wiped out in the environmental apocalypse, and Lucy hardly remembers what it was like to not spend all of her days just trying to keep herself warm, dry, and fed in her camp where she lives alone in what used to be NYC. When she meets Aidan while running from a pack of dogs, she can hardly remember how to speak. After a tsunami takes out her camp, she joins up with Aidan's people, a ragtag group of children and senior citizens who weren't affected by the post-apocalyptic plague--which puts her within reach of a mysterious group of scientists who kidnap pretty much anyone they can get their hands on.

*Blood Red Road
Moira Young
Margaret McElderry
Saba, Lugh, and Emmi live on the banks of Silverlake, which is drying up. They might never have left--except that a group of armed men kills their father and takes Lugh away. Saba wants to rescue her brother, and Emmi tags along. The world outside Silverlake is harsher than they could have imagined, and Saba is captured and forced to fight in cage matches. Three losses, and she'll be killed. Another fighter, Jack, and a group of "lawless" fighting women, the Free Hawks, want her to lose--because that might be her path to freedom for all. This is a weird read; conventions of standard English are set aside for the book's particular dialect. Despite this, I was completely engrossed, and I recommend giving this a try if you like women warriors.

Megan McCafferty
Now that the adult population is largely infertile, teen girls are encouraged to do what they can to populate the world, including surrogacy. Fake baby bumps have replaced dolls and bicycles. The best of the best at impregnating and being impregnated are tomorrow's teen idols. Melody and Harmony, twins separated at birth, meet and discover the bonds of sisterhood aren't quite so strong when you don't know each other--even if the world thinks conservative Harmony is about to provide a million dollar baby. This funny, wry book takes apart some of the less logical aspects of the fertility-fear science fiction books crowding the shelves, and offers an alternative--and much more scary--future. The ending is a little abrupt, but it's certainly worth a read.

Books marked with a * are my favorites in this list. My favorites don't necessarily reflect any discussions or preferences of the other first round Cybils judges--nor do they represent any opinions but my own.
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