Friday, August 1, 2014

Let's Get Caught Up, Shall We?

So I'm a few dozen books into 2014, but here are some highlights to get us back on the same page (get it? you get it).*

Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin

After blazing through the excellent Ashfall last year, I was itching to get my hands on its sequel, which did not disappoint. Alex made it through his first harrowing adventures through midwest America following the eruption of a supervolcano, but the challenges he faces in this novel make even that terrorscape look like a walk in the park. A few corrupt government officials and the odd group of violent thieves pale in comparison to roving gangs of cannibalistic gangbangers, and that's in addition to the brutal weather and constant challenges of living in a perpetual, ash-cloud winter. These books are intense but realistic, brutal but not without hope. I highly recommend this series to fans of The Walking Dead, but even if you don't have the stomach (sorry) for that series, check these out if you enjoy survival fiction in general.

Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

After a steady onslaught of gritty dystopian fiction, this lighter and more romantic take on classic romances with a sci-fi twist is a tonic. I really enjoyed For Darkness Shows the Stars, a reimagining of Persuasion, and for this outing we're headed to a Hawaii-like setting ("New Pacifica") for a twist on The Scarlet Pimpernel. And yes, the book works perfectly well without having read the originals (I've read Persuasion, but not Pimpernel). For your fix of YA romance with beautiful gowns, without sacrificing compelling characters or a plot.

Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

Three teens team up to form their own paranormal detective/defense agency in a rambling mansion? With swords and sass and tea and toast and murder and a chronic lack of funds, but never of charm? Um, YES. Don't think too hard. Just read it. It's wonderful and scary and fun. For fans of SuperWhoLock (literally there's something for all of you here) and anyone getting into that spooky autumn mood already.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

I feel like I've been let down by magic realism for teens before, but not this time. I'm not sure what to say about it, other than that I highly recommend it to fans of early Alice Hoffman who, like me, have had it with the crippling angst of her later books. That's not to say that this book is all airy lightness, there is hurt and pain and sadness to be sure, but there is also love and family and, yes, magic.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Speaking of magic realism with some heft! This book is gorgeous through and through, with two spectacularly well-realized leads (who may make you want to brush up on Good Omens). This is not a young adult novel per se, but with themes of discovering/developing oneself, finding community, and love in a variety of forms, this is a perfect crossover. History for the history buffs, an excellent sense of time/place (New York City/early 20th century), and a large cast of unique characters round out this fantastic title. Look for it again in my Top Ten list for the year. I can't see it being displaced from the top spots anytime soon.

(If these last two books appeal to you, you might also enjoy The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman. My recent griping notwithstanding, I mostly liked it, and it hits a lot of the same historical/magical notes, also in turn of the century New York. See also The Diviners by Libba Bray) 

Sunrise by Mike Mullin

Remember when we talked about Ashen Winter? (I hope so, if not please seek medical attention soon, I'm very concerned about your health). Well, here's the final book in the sequel! I can't even touch the plot without spoiling things, but I will note that one of my favorite things in this series is the resourceful ways characters find to survive seemingly desperate situations, and to work towards a future when everything seems impossible. It's rare for me to commit to a series any more, but I'd be willing to read still more of this one.

And there we go! Stay tuned for a peek at my hold list, and some brand new reviews coming soon.

*Book puns.


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