Archive for August, 2008

[I have a perfectly wretched head cold at the moment, so I'm running an interview rather than having to form an opinion about a book. My apologies. Scroll down to the bottom for the contest! I promise there are no spoilers under the cut; I just thought it might be too long without one. -S.]

Stephanie: To start, since I’m located in Cleveland, we are conducting our interview in the cafe at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. (I’m in italics, he’s in plain text.)

JSS: Rock and roll! Excellent. We are definitely going to have to explore after the interview. Who are your favorite rock bands? I’m partial to Queen, Led Zepplin, and Styx.

I’m quite partial to Queen as well, and the Beatles and David Bowie. There are some awesome artifacts in the basement! Anyway, we’re on a higher level, inside the iconic I.M. Pei glass pyramid, like the one at the Louvre. If you look down, you can see the gift shop; if you look up, you can see the peak of the pyramid and outside, Cleveland’s friendly grayish skies. (Apparently we have more bad-weather days than anywhere else in the U.S.)

Really? So if Twilight hadn’t taken place in Forks, it could have taken place here. Wonder if that long-haired guy with the cool guitar is a bloodsucker.

He probably is . . . Have you ever been to Cleveland? (more…)

Tamora Pierce has been so vocally excited about this book in her blog — she even got a quote put on the front of the book — that when I came across an affordable copy of it, I had to pick it up. Sarah Beth Durst was born in Northboro, MA, the setting of the book; she currently lives in Stony Brook, NY. She spent a year molding in Cambridge, England, but moved back to the U.S. She’s possessed of a husband, a daughter, and a cat named Perni (originally Copernicus). I’m certain she’s working on a new book, but I can’t find any info. Her most recent book is Out of the Wild, which is a sequel to this one.

Julie Marchen has an . . . interesting life. For one thing, her mother is Rapunzel. For a second, she’s twelve years old and is in junior high/middle school. For a third thing, she gets rides to and from school from Cinderella. For the last, the Wild lives under her bed: the wild magic that powers and directs fairy tales. It’s eating her shoes. So one night, after they’ve had Snow White’s seven dwarves over for dinner, the Wild (under her bed) escapes, and starts growing crazily. Julie’s mother disappears into it, and everyone seems to want to get Julie out of the way rather than help her mother. What can she do? And why has she been thinking so much about her father recently? (more…)

After last Friday’s odd Lilith Saintcrow book, I thought it would probably be good to read one of her more mainstream publications. This is the first book in a five-book series; the story is apparently complete in those five books. Apparently Lilith Saintcrow is her real name. Seriously, did she have a choice? I think she had to be a writer. She lives in Vancouver, WA, with three kids and a handful of cats, after an army brat’s childhood. Her upcoming series for YAs, Strange Angels, I think was just sold recently and will probably come out in 2010 or so. Other than that, she’s written books in approximately six different series. I’m still waiting for the sequel to Steelflower.

Dante Valentine is a Necromance; she’s able to raise and talk to the dead. Her world is a future version of America, after the parapsychics come out of the closet, so to speak. One day, a demon comes to visit her, and he requests — with the implication that there is no removal — that she come to the Underworld to talk to Lucifer for a bit. She does, obviously, and it turns out that Lucifer wants to hire her to do a job. A demon artefact called the Egg has been stolen from Hell, and since the demon who has it can’t be killed by man or demon, they want her — woman — to go after him. Oh yeah, that, and he killed an old lover of hers. Does she really have a choice? (more…)

I was very pleasantly surprised by book 1, which I purchased for a ridiculously low sum. Book 2 I had to find at the library, though (hey, not everyone sends me free books yet). Clare Dunkle is a librarian by trade; although she hasn’t been working as a librarian for a few years, she still loves the field. Her first books — this trilogy — were written as letters to her daughters who were in German boarding schools at the time; they have won awards (the Mythopoeic Society Award) and have been named to a ridiculous number of best-of lists. She has a Wuthering Heights prequel due out in 2010, which will probably be incredibly popular with the Twilight set (although probably better written than Twilight).

Emily is Kate’s little sister from the first volume; it’s about six years after the events of the first volume. It’s still vaguely the nineteenth century in England. A strongly elf-sided goblin, Seylin, has been a very good friend of hers since they were both children. Recently he’s been hinting around marriage, but Emily doesn’t quite get it, and when she says in a fit of pique that she will never marry him, he decides to go off on a quest to find out if there are other elves in the world. Emily, of course, once she finds out what actually happened, decides to leave and follow after him. Will either of them complete their quests? (more…)

Carrie Vaughn is not a golfer; she’s a writer. Having been an Air Force brat, she had a bit of a peripatetic childhood. She went to college at the same place as Ben Affleck — at the same time, even! — but she never met him, much to her dismay. A master’s degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder and the usual rack of writer day jobs came later; she has currently published four novels (two coming out next year) and a large amount of short stories, several of which are even about the same character in this novel. Her name came up on one of those, “If you like . . .” lists, so I looked for her first book, and eventually found it.

Kitty Norville is a late-night DJ who takes requests, and one night, instead of requests, she finds herself accidentally starting a talk show about creatures of the night: vampires, werewolves, and the like. Of course, Kitty herself is a werewolf: the absolute lowest in the pack. Anyway, the show takes off; it gets syndicated very quickly. Unfortunately, that causes some problems in her werewolf pack, as well with the local vampire Family. On top of that, some of her callers are getting really, really strange. Should she stop doing the show the way her alpha wants her to? (more…)

I still love Diana Wynne Jones. She’s one of the grandes dames of British children’s fantasy, and I’ve reviewed several of her books previously. One of those, The Dark Lord of Derkholm, was one of my favorite books EVER. It was, quite simply, in my mind, the perfect blend of humor and character and plot and action. It had griffins and dragons and wizards and bards and a lot of amusement; overall, that’s probably one of my top 10 recommended novels of all time. Today’s novel is actually the sequel to that story. One might guess that I went into this book with a large amount of expectation.

Elda, who is one of Derk’s griffin children, has started at the University. The economy of the world has been a little screwed up since the events of The Dark Lord of Derkholm, and the University is running out of money. There are six students in the first-year class, and it seems that most of them are there without their parents’ consent. (Including Elda. Derk isn’t a fan of the university.) So when the current head of the University sends home letters to ask for donations to the first-year students’ parents, all heck breaks loose. All sorts of crazy politics start, including bizarre food, dwarves, griffins from another continent, a professor obsessed with getting to the moon, and mandatory grade deflation . . . (more…)

I’ve read a few of his books before — the Uglies trilogy, which I reviewed here, here, and here. I wasn’t perhaps as impressed with them as other people, partially because I was a bit worried about the disconnect between books that say that everyone looking and acting entirely the same is a problem, but then constantly rewarding the heroine . . . Well, in any case, that’s THOSE books. Mr. Westerfeld is married to Justine Larbalestier, and they split their time between Australia (her home country) and America (his), spending summer in both places. Usually here I mention that if I were to do that, I’d spend winter in both places, but I know I’m a little nuts.

Peeps is his vampire novel. It’s not particularly a YA book, but older YAs could certainly handle it. The main character, Cal, was infected with a parasite (he’s ‘parasite-positive’, a peep); the symptoms include light-shunning, cannibalism, and super strength and senses. Fortunately, he’s only what’s called a ‘carrier’ — he has most of the benefits but none of the bad symptoms, like insanity. After he caught the parasite, apparently an underground organization found him, and hired him as (basically) a vampire hunter. His first job? To find all his ex-girlfriends and, rather than informing them that they should be tested, he gets to catch them and contain them . . . (more…)

Finally, we come to day five, the final day in our inaugural Small Press Week. Samhain Publishing is generally thought of as an e-publisher, but they do release print versions of their novels. Those come out generally several months later, though. They were founded in November of 2005; the name refers to the Wiccan (pagan) major holiday that falls on October 31/November 1. Lilith Saintcrow is probably best known for her Dante Valentine novels (Working for the Devil, Dead Man Rising, The Devil’s Right Hand, etc.) about a necromancer who’s, well, working for the devil. At least at first. However, I found a random high fantasy work of hers on the Samhain website, and I thought I’d give it a try.

Kaia is a G’mai; some call them elves, but they hate that term. She was kicked out of the G’mai home country when she was sixteen or so due to lack of magical ability, though; she’s been working as a mercenary swordfighter, a pickpocket, an assassin, or whatever might net her a little bit of money. She somehow ends up picking the pocket of a giant redheaded barbarian, and ends up with a flawed crystal on a chain. Turns out that that crystal is a talisman to find the original owner — he goes by Darik — find his ‘twin’, or the G’mai woman he’s supposed to be bonded and mated to. Kaia rejects this; she has no magic! However, there’s a lot going on. Who, exactly, is Darik? Will he ever give up and find the person he’s supposed to be bonded to? And, well, there’s a war going on somewhere, right? (more…)

Day Four of Small Press Week, and all is well! Today’s publisher is a little bit different; it’s the non-religious (i.e., mainstream fiction) imprint of what I seem to understand is a large LDS (Mormon) publisher (Deseret Books). They do seem to publish a fair amount of children’s fantasy, and they’ve signed J. Scott Savage to a five-book contract, so I approve. The fact that they’re not based in New York and that the imprint itself isn’t very big qualifies it as a small press for the purposes of this week, at least. Mr. Savage lives in Utah; he has a spastic Border Collie, four children, and an unknown number of fish, although I did ask him to count them for me. This novel will be published on Sept. 12, 2008, which happens to be my birthday. Check back in a few days for an interview with Mr. Savage, and a contest!

Marcus Kanenas is an orphan who also happens to be disabled (he was injured as a baby and now one arm and leg don’t work). While in a new school, someone comes by, claiming to know his parents. Unfortunately this guy is trying to kidnap him, and before that happens, Kyja (a girl he has dreamed about, in a very innocent way) pulls him over into Farworld. Except Marcus thought he invented Farworld. Turns out that Marcus is originally FROM Farworld; he and Kyja had their worlds switched at birth. Marcus is a Fated Individual in Farworld; there seems to be a Dark Circle that is trying to take over the world with dark magic (ordering the elements around rather than asking them) and it’s very likely that Marcus — with the help of his opposite, Kyja — will be able to save it. (more…)

Welcome to Day 3 of our Small Press Week. Today’s small press is Small Beer Press (small beer, for those who don’t know, is an older term for a low-alcohol brew; it used to be that drinking small beer was safer than drinking water); Kelly Link is one of the founders of this press. She also happens to be the co-editor of The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror collections, as well as a short-story author in her own right. She lives in Massachusetts, and has a B.A. from Columbia and an M.F.A. from UNC-Greensboro; her stories have won the Nebula, the James Tiptree, Jr., and the World Fantasy Awards. Her second collection was published by Harcourt.

Stranger Things Happen is a collection of eleven stories; they range from deceptively simple tales that may or may not be about Nancy Drew, to stories that border on horror, passing through several fairy tales and ghost stories in the middle. A few of them are in second person; some feature male narrators, some feature female narrators, some feature children as narrators. Generally speaking, they’re all a little bit . . . strange. There’s some element in each tale — whether it’s the fact that the narrator is dead, or the fact that both main characters have the same name, or the presence of the Donner party — that is just a bit unsettling. (more…)