Monday, December 16, 2013

My Nerd Wishes for 2014

I had a lot of fun putting my list together last year, and a lot of them actually came true! Or at least half true- S.H.I.E.L.D. was picked up, but is neither awesome nor Whedony, at least not yet, and while Community did return, it was a soulless mockery of itself. But that's ok because!

10) Dan Harmon's return will put an end to the Darkest Timeline. This is not so much a wish as it is a dearly held belief.

9) S.H.I.E.L.D. to get better. There's so much potential, but so far it's lacking that essential spark and I just don't care about anyone other than Coulson most of the time.

8) The chance to go back to NYCC. I went this year and it was amazing and even better than last time (Sleepy Hollow cast! Spirited feminist debates! Hugs and love from John Barrowman!). Here's hoping the third time is the best so far.

7) To not say appallingly stupid things to the Supernatural cast at the con I'm going to in September. Or to swoon during my photo op with "Sam" and "Dean."

6) This is pretty vague, but more movies that say "feh" to traditional gender roles and romantic tropes. Pacific Rim was a really fun surprise, partially for this reason, and everything I've heard about Frozen is encouraging.

5)  For the Daughter of Smoke and Bone film adaptation that's in the works to do the book justice. I would say it's not that hard, but it kind of is, which is why I'm not even cautiously excited that there's going to be a movie in the first place. Just, could we not? Thanks.

4) More Simon Pegg and Nick Frost collaborations, ideally with Edgar Wright.

3) For Sleepy Hollow to continue being the breakneck whirlwind of supernatural cheese, ethnic diversity, pair bonding and gleeful insanity that we've come to know and love. With Orlando Jones with his finger on the fandom pulse, I think we're in safe hands.

2) A live-action miniseries with the Eighth Doctor. I don't want to hear your reasonable excuses. He was back for The Night of the Doctor and people loved it so la la la la la.....

And finally:

1) A female-led comic book movie because COME THE HELL ON ALREADY. Marvel please, I don't trust DC with this.

What's on your nerdy wish list this year?

Top Ten Teen Books of 2013

It's that time of year again! Time to agonize over picking my ten favorite books this year, and then find ways to cheat slightly to include a few more. ;-)

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Actually, I had a bit of trouble putting together this list because so many of my favorite books this year were firmly in the Adult category. Still, plenty, like this one, have broader appeal. While the movie is fun, and it's great to have an addition to the ZomRomCom genre, the book outstrips it by a mile. Contemplative, horrifying, and emotionally resonant for a generation, Warm Bodies should definitely claw its way onto your reading list.

 I mentioned the cheating, right? Here's a big one- the ninth spot on my list belongs to the collections of critical essays based around popular TV shows that I've read this year. It's been a big year for fandoms, and what better way to celebrate than by delving deeper into the history, psychology, and cultural relevance of your favorite Time Lord, Vampire Slayer, Hunter or Browncoat?

Again with the cheating. Last one though. Probably.

I'm giving the Eighth spot, and I swear that this was actually a coincidence, to the Big Finish audio stories featuring the Doctor's  Eighth incarnation, as voiced by Paul McGann. This year marks the show's 50th anniversary, so it seems fitting to include them. Even if you've  never tried audiobooks before, these can be a fun introduction as they're really more radio plays with multiple actors, many well-known to Whovians. I highly recommend a viewing of the (cheesy but lovable) 1996 Doctor Who movie, then listening to some of these audios. Fair warning: you will fall head over heels in love with Eight's "Edwardian Adventuress" companion, the fantasic Charley Pollard.

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Aaaand, back to the teen books! Series are a fact of life in the realm of teen lit, and this can sometimes be wearying, so it's always a pleasant surprise to find books that you actually can't wait for the next installment of. With engaging characters, an increasing amount of magic, and enough quippy banter for any CW-hardened fan of genre fiction, these books are a fun ride that I wholeheartedly recommend.

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M. Valente

Speaking of series that you're actually excited for! If you've seen this blog before you know I turn into a babbling sack of enthusiastic superlatives where the Fairyland series is concerned, so I'll spare you. If you haven't already, please start this series. It's waiting to welcome you with open arms and a fresh pot of spiced tea.

Another Little Piece by Kate Karus Quinn

Not my usual, but I really enjoyed this creeptastic bit of madness and body horror. Recommended for fans of Stephen King.
The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

I feel like there's a shortage of good sci-fi being released for teens. Maybe that's just because I don't read enough sci-fi in general to be on top of these things, but so much of it seems like quickly churned out dystopian filler. Not so here, where the focus is on the ethical issues of cloning, and the story plays out in an all-too-possible future. It's chilling and uplifting and really makes you think- exactly as good science fiction needs to.

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

English. Snarky. Magical. Mysterious. Romantic. Gothic. Funny. Yes good.

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

I struggled with this spot, and almost had it be a tie with Ashfall (which is one of the only YA books with a male protagonist I've read this year, and was a damn good story to boot), but I decided I'd done enough cheating. Besides, this one feels that little bit more unique, even if it is perhaps a bit less polished. I've had just about enough dystopian novels, but this one, which happens on the outskirts and to everyday people, made things interesting again. Bleak but powerful, this is an intriguing portrayal of survival and love in the face of overwhelming odds.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

I had despaired of vampires ever being even tolerable in a YA novel again. And then this happened. Sexy and scary by turns, exactly as the best vampire lit should be, this is a fun ride into a dark and glittering world of ballgowns, teenage angst, shameless media consumption, marketing, death and romance. This is my kind of vampire book people, and it might just be yours as well.

And there you have it! Not as many books as I was completely in love with as some previous years- and as much as I love The Dream Thieves and The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, the inclusion of two series installments on this list is telling.

What made your top ten list this year?

Night of Cake and Puppets

Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor

In Night of Cake & Puppets, Taylor brings to life a night only hinted at in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy—the magical first date of fan-favorites Zuzana and Mik. Told in alternating perspectives, it’s the perfect love story for fans of the series and new readers alike. Petite though she may be, Zuzana is not known for timidity. Her best friend, Karou, calls her “rabid fairy,” her “voodoo eyes” are said to freeze blood, and even her older brother fears her wrath. But when it comes to the simple matter of talking to Mik, or “Violin Boy,” her courage deserts her. Now, enough is enough. Zuzana is determined to meet him, and she has a fistful of magic and a plan. It’s a wonderfully elaborate treasure hunt of a plan that will take Mik all over Prague on a cold winter’s night before finally leading him to the treasure: herself! Violin Boy’s not going to know what hit him. -Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

I haven't been completely won over by ebooks. Don't get me wrong, I'm far from a hater. Plenty of friends have told me they read more since getting an ereader, and that is fantastic. I love that people can access hundreds of thousands of books from nearly anywhere in the world, instantly. Hell, I used my Nook a lot when traveling this year, especially while waiting in lines at NYCC. Still, I haven't made the switch to electronic books and never will. BUT!

There's something really, really cool happening because of ebooks. Authors are releasing short stories, novellas, and assorted material that, for whatever reason, isn't to be found in their printed books. This story, for example, happens during the events of Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It doesn't have any business in that novel though, as it's from the perspective of a character other than the protagonist, has a very different tone, and would detract from the narrative flow of DoSaB. Instead of trying to shoehorn it in, or never write it in the first place, Taylor has provided this magical story in a completely independent format. Yay! 

I'm really impressed that this story manages to be sweet and magical and romantic without ever seeming trite or saccharine. Zuzana, Karou's "rabid fairy" friend is far too cool for such twee, Hallmark nonsense. Instead, we're treated to more trips down the crooked streets of Prague, along its twisty rivers and between medieval buildings. We get to revisit the Poison Kitchen, with its gas masks, coffins, and sugar bowls labelled "Arsenic." Best of all, we get some romantic tropes turned on their heads and a peek inside Zuzana's slightly mad, puppet-infested brain while she sets out to win the heart of "Violin Boy."

It's a joy to read, especially at this time of year and while waiting (im)patiently for the third book in Taylor's phenomenal series. If you loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone, go ahead and spend the $3 to buy this novella. You won't regret it.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan

It’s time to choose sides… On the surface, Sorry-in-the-Vale is a sleepy English town. But Kami Glass knows the truth. Sorry-in-the-Vale is full of magic. In the old days, the Lynburn family ruled with fear, terrifying the people into submission in order to kill for blood and power. Now the Lynburns are back, and Rob Lynburn is gathering sorcerers so that the town can return to the old ways.

But Rob and his followers aren’t the only sorcerers in town. A decision must be made: pay the blood sacrifice, or fight. For Kami, this means more than just choosing between good and evil. With her link to Jared Lynburn severed, she’s now free to love anyone she chooses. But who should that be?
-Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

There's so much to love in these books. I've already raved about Kami's family and friends, and how competent and fun she is as a protagonist (parallels may have been made to Veronica Mars). This sequel offers more of the same, with more complex relationships, an expanded cast of characters, a darker, more menacing tone, and of course, more romantic entanglements. Add to that the allure of a small, mysterious village in the days leading up to the winter solstice and you have one atmospheric read. 

Highly recommended, but definitely be sure to read the first installment before facing up to some original worldbuilding and a diverse cast of characters.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

All the Truth That's In Me

All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry

Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by those who were once her friends and family. Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember—even if he doesn’t know it—her childhood friend, Lucas. But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever. This startlingly original novel will shock and disturb you; it will fill you with Judith’s passion and longing; and its mysteries will keep you feverishly turning the pages until the very last. -Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

I can't believe that I gave a book written in second person narrative a 5 star rating on Goodreads. But there it is! This book is compelling, genuinely mysterious, and intense. The less you know going in the better, so I can't say too much here. I would maybe advise not to go in expecting some massive Shyamalan-esque twist (the summary plays up the weirdness angle a bit more than it needs to), even though I did and can't say I was disappointed by the plot at all. There is weirdness aplenty here, and unease, but also some captivating human drama.