Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone
by Laini Taylor

Karou is an art student living in Prague. But unknown to her friends, she has a secret life as foster-daughter and errand-runner for a demon. Karou grew up in the shop of a chimera named Brimstone, who collects teeth (for what purpose, Karou doesn't know) and pays for them with wishes. But Karou doesn't know who she is, really. There is an emptiness inside her that makes her feel that there should be something more. Until she meets the angel, and he tries to kill her.

Anyone who thinks that YA fiction is easy to write should read Laini Taylor's books. Taylor has obviously worked hard to perfect her craft, and it shows in every word, every metaphor. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is her best book yet: a magnificently written story in every way. The mystery of who Karou really is, and what's really going on, is compelling, and draws you in as it gradually teases out the reveals.

There is romance—oh, yes, such a romance—but there is also so much more than that. War, and the way that war corrupts all the participants, is a major theme of the book. Daughter of Smoke and Bone shows all too clearly the devastating consequences of war, and the way that each side vilifies the other to justify its own position. This is a book that I think will appeal to teens and adults of both genders.

I hope I won't be spoiling anything to warn that the book ends on a cliffhanger. I didn't realize that it wasn't a standalone book until I got close to the end of the book, and I started realizing that things weren't going to wrap up in time.

Buy Daughter of Smoke and Bone from:
Your local independent bookseller through IndieBound
Barnes & Noble

FTC required disclosure: Reviewed from ARC. Review copy provided by the publisher to enable me to write this review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Book Review: Enthralled: Paranormal Diversions

Enthralled: Paranormal Diversions
edited by Melissa Marr & Kelley Armstrong
Enthralled is an anthology of paranormal stories by leading authors in the field. Each story has something to do with the theme of a journey, either physical or metaphorical.
As with any anthology, there are some stories I loved, and others that I didn't care for. Overall, though, this is a strong anthology, and I enjoyed most of the stories. There's a wide variety of stories here: romantic, humorous, tragic, scary, and funny. There are fairies, ghosts, vampires, zombies and various other things that go bump in the night.
Many of the stories in the anthology tie in with a book or series by the story's author. I had no problem understanding any of these stories, but I felt that a couple of them depended too much for character and world development on people having read the corresponding books, and in those cases I found that I never came to care very much about the characters. Good short fiction packs a lot of punch in a short word count, and the ones that were most successful were those, like Carrie Ryan's "Scenic Route," where the author created new characters and a new story within the context of their pre-existing world.
Other stories that I loved in this anthology:
"I.V. League," by Margaret Stohl. It was a little strange at first, but it turned into a hilarious satire of the college admissions process.
"Things About Love" by Jackson Pearce. Although this is another one that ties in with a book, I thought this story stood well alone and had good character development. A young man tries to help a female genie understand love, as he struggles with his own crush on another young man.
"Bridge" by Jeri Smith-Ready. Another book/series tie-in that stands well alone. This is a touching free verse story of two brothers, one dead and one alive, trying to reconcile their past.
"Giovanni’s Farewell" by Claudia Gray is a sweet ghost story about an unfulfilled life.
Authors included in this anthology are: Melissa Marr, Kelley Armstrong, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Sarah Rees Brennan, Rachel Caine, Ally Condie, Kimberly Derting, Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl, Claudia Gray, Jackson Pearce, Mary A. Pearson, Carrie Ryan, Jeri Smith-Ready, Jessica Verday, and Rachel Vincent.
FTC required disclosure: Reviewed from ARC. Review copy provided by the publisher to enable me to write this review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Call for Cybils '11 Panelists!

It's that time of year again. The air has started to take on that Autumn feel, the school buses line the streets in the mornings, and the Cybils have put out the call for panelists. For anyone who isn't familiar with them, the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards, aka the Cybils, are a series of awards given each year by the children's book blogging community to the best children's and young adult books of the year.

This is not one of those casual blog awards that go around from time to time; the Cybils are serious business by people who are passionate about children's and YA books. We have structure and organizers and criteria (literary merit AND kid appeal) and our own internal tracking database. Nominations will open to the public from October 1 to 15, and anyone can nominate. Following that, two rounds of panelists will read the books. The round 1 panel reads the long list of nominated books to choose a shortlist of finalists. The round 2 panel reads the finalists and chooses a winner.

Being a panelist is hard work, but a lot of fun. It's great to participate in such an intense reading and discussion panel with other people who love books as much as you do. To be a panelist, you must blog about children's or YA books at least some of the time, and you must be able to commit the time to read and discuss the books. (Round 1 panelists don't have to read all the books, but should plan on reading at least 3-4 books a week from October through December).

Click here to learn how to apply to be a panelist. Submitting an application doesn't guarantee you a slot, because we always get more applicants than slots, and competition is fierce. If you're applying for one of the Fantasy and Science Fiction panels, I'll be looking for people who are widely read in the genres and show depth and breadth of knowledge about SFF. (For example, paranormal is included in the SFF category, but if that's all you read, you don't have breadth). If your blog doesn't show of your SFF geekiness to it's fullest extent, please feel free to let me know in the comments anything that would help me to fairly consider you. Pictures of you in costume at a con count for bonus points.

New this year the Cybils has added a book apps category! Applicants for panelists in this category must have an iPad. If I weren't already doing SFF, I'd be all over this category. Also, as an experiment this year, we will be allowing nominations of books published as ebooks without a corresponding print edition, with some limitations, in the YA Fiction and SFF YA categories only. So if you're applying for those two categories, be prepared to read some ebooks. (All panelists have to be willing to read ebook review copies, but in all other categories there must be a corresponding print edition). Read more about the changes here.

Let the games begin! May the odds be ever in your favor.

17 ways humanity's first contact with aliens could go down

The Syfy Channel's DVICE blog posted this great slideshow, based on a report from scientists at Pennsylvania State University and NASA's Planetary Science Division. DVICE spiced it up with pictures and references to classic SFF, but the original report, "Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit or Harm Humanity? A Scenario Analysis," looks equally fascinating. The authors of the report are Seth D. Baum, Department of Geography, Pennsylvania State University, Jacob D. Haqq-Misr, Department of Meteorology, Pennsylvania State University, and Shawn D. Domagal-Goldman, NASA Planetary Science Division. How awesome is it that these serious research institutions are actually thinking about things like this?

17 ways humanity's first contact with aliens could go down