Book Signing and B-Fest!

June 6, 2016 at 4:16 pm (A Wounded Name, Appearances) (, , , , , , )

That’s right! There’s going to be an in-person type thing!

 

So some of you may have seen on social media or in stores that every Barnes & Noble store is participating in the first ever B-Fest, a national teen book festival, and it’s happening THIS WEEKEND (June 10-12). There is a ton going on at every store and, in addition to the national events, there are author signings all over the place. It’s going to be a ton of fun!

Why am I posting about this? Well, partly because I think it’s going to be awesome, partly because I’ll be working some of the events as a bookseller, and partly because I’ll be holding a signing! So here’s a break-down of events.

FRIDAY JUNE 10: 7 pm B- IN THE KNOW

Think you know YA? Put yourself to the test with our Trivia Blast, created by Penguin Teen and Random House’s First in Line. One winner in each store will spend the next year receiving advance reader’s copies of the hottest new teen titles, plus there’s swag!

 

SATURDAY JUNE 11: 11 am B- FIRST

There are so many amazing titles coming out, and you can be among the first to see them! Get samplers and sneak peeks from some of your favorite authors, including a Maze Runner prequel from James Dashner, new stories from Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children (don’t forget the movie of the first book, out this year!), and others! Other exciting giveaways are in the works, and the publishers sent some pretty awesome stuff.

 

SATURDAY JUNE 11: 2pm B- PART OF THE FUN

Settle in for a great time, as we unload spelling showdown, story ball, games, and activities, with even more prizes. Guys, I’ve seen the author coloring book. It’s amazeballs.

 

SUNDAY JUNE 12: 2pm B- CREATIVE

Learn how to develop your story in a workshop created by Adaptive Studios and find out more about this awesome publisher and their dual-media projects.

And me!

I’ll be at the Crossroads Barnes & Noble in Omaha to┬álead the workshop on Sunday (among other things) and it’ll round out with a signing for A WOUNDED NAME. To address the question that may or may not come up: we’ve got THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN on order and hopefully it will be there as well, but the focus will be on A WOUNDED NAME because it’s actually the teen book. (Teen book, teen book fest…you know.) But if our timing from when the book hit the warehouse works out well, we’ll have both books there for those who are interested.

Authors are booked at locations all over the country–call your local Barnes & Noble or check them out on twitter, facebook, or instagram to find out who’s coming to the stores near you. You can also check out #BFESTBUZZ, @bnbuzz, or visit bn.com/b-fest.

While this is primarily intended for young adults, the adults young at heart are welcome to join in the fun. The weekend is a fantastic opportunity for fans to come together and celebrate all the awesomeness that is the teen book scene. Hope to see you there!

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Audio Book Review: Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray

April 28, 2015 at 8:20 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

Audio books have not, traditionally, been kind to me. They’ve just never meshed with my particular manifestation of ADD. Sitting and just *listening* to something inevitably makes me drift away-it made lecture classes a unique breed of hell in college. Lately, though, I’ve discovered that I do pretty well listening to books I’ve already read and loved, as long as I’m doing something else at the same time, like cleaning/packing, driving, crafting, or leveling up in video games. This weekend, I listened to Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.

Beauty Queens

I reviewed the book a few years ago, when it first came out, and it’s absolutely hysterical and subversive and thought-provoking and fantastic. I loved it.

And now, having listened to the audio book, I might get down on my knees and worship it a little.

One of the unavoidable problems with audio books is that you HAVE to have a good narrator or actors (I do have a love of full cast audio, a la Tamora Pierce or Brian Jacques). A bad narrator can absolutely kill a good book, but it is extremely difficult to find people who can read consistently over long periods of time (weeks, in many cases, to get enough good takes to edit together), read clearly without over-doing it, AND do distinct voices for characters without shredding your ears. (Example: I recently listened to the first Harry Potter narrated by Jim Dale, and think he does an amazing job–except for Hermione, whose voice made me want to retch with every line) It’s a challenge, and there are many, many audio books that fail to meet this challenge sufficiently.

I am VERY happy to say that Beauty Queens is not one of those.

It’s narrated by Libba Bray–you don’t often find authors reading their own books outside of non-fiction–and she does an AMAZING job. Nearly every voice is distinct, and those that aren’t belong to characters who are, by design, not particularly distinct to begin with. Even heavily accented characters, like the very Miss Texas, or the British-inflected Indian Miss California, don’t lose clarity. The regional dialects are respected, and for the most part (MOST part) not made outlandish. When they are, it’s because that’s the joke. I think the only character voice I had any issue with was Adina (Miss New Hampshire) who had a bit of a flat affect that made it difficult to hear sometimes, but that flatness fit her character so well it was easy to forgive.

This is a rare example of an audio book that can actually give you a little more than the book itself. Part of that comes from fantastic sound effects, like background for the commercial breaks, little chimes for the forty-something footnotes (seriously, footnotes; only novel other than Good Omens where they fit so perfectly), and every single character that mentions a trademarked item gives a high-pitched, sing-song TM after the full product name. A larger part of it, though, comes from being as close to inside the author’s head as it’s possible to be. Here, in the very purposeful choices of delivery, we get unexpected depths to characters who already had the ability to surprise.

One of the strongest elements of that came out in Taylor Renee Crystal Hawkins (aka Miss Texas). She’s a huge personality, completely dedicated to the Miss Teen Dream pageant and a set of very stereotypically Texas ideals. She’s meant to be larger than life, and she absolutely is–but listening to her, rather than reading her, also gives more of an edge to what is, ultimately, a profoundly sympathetic and pitiable character. The performance of Taylor’s break with an already fragile reality is exquisitely performed. Tiara, Miss Mississippi, is still sweet and sincere and too stupid to breathe, but we hear more of that sweetness, and the uncertainty just beneath it. Her obliviousness, and her simple joys and the growth she makes as a character, all come through so much stronger with Libba Bray’s performance.

And then there’s Ladybird Hope. A veteran (dare I say dowager queen?) of the Miss Teen Dream Pageant, a sponsor of the pageant, a corporate superstar, and presidential hopeful, there was always something in her that came off strongly reminiscent of Sarah Palin in the book. Given that the voice was only in my head, it was easy to shrug off that resemblance as pure coincidence. With the audio book? It is definitely not a coincidence. There were many places in this book where I nearly hurt myself laughing, but it was a definite risk EVERY TIME we heard from Ladybird Hope. Really just THE definition of painfully funny.

Beauty Queens is a ridiculous, high-strung journey into the absurd, stretching the absolute limits of plausibility, but travels through genuine, thought-provoking regions of gender and femininity and what those concepts actually mean. It’s a phenomenal book that I love to push into people’s hands, either to start the conversation or continue the discussion, and the audio presentation not only lives up to that love, but quite possibly surpasses it. Even for those like me who love the book, I strongly recommend the audio for your rereading enjoyment. And many congratulations to Ms Bray for taking an already phenomenal book and leading it to make even more of an impact.

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Book Review: The Twelve-Fingered Boy, by John Hornor Jacobs

December 5, 2012 at 7:51 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , )

Twelve-Fingered BoyShreve’s got a pretty sweet gig for now- sure, he’s in juvi, but he makes a pretty penny by peddling contraband to his fellow inmates. The way he figures, he can coast along, leave with more than he came in, and get back to his little brother. Then he gets a cellmate, Jack, a shy boy with six fingers on each hand and a whole host of secrets, and Jack has some creepy folk after him. When Jack displays a power Shreve can’t explain, he knows they have to get out before those interested parties can find a way to take him. Getting away, though, isn’t as hard as staying free, or knowing what’s right.

I have to admit, when I first got my hands on this, I was hesitant, purely because I wasn’t really digging the prospect of a book set largely in a juvenile detention facility. Then I actually started reading it, and it could have been set anywhere and I still would have been fully immersed.

From the very first page, Shreve’s voice just grabs you, and never lets go. It’s a voice rich with slang, the language of incarcerado, as one of the guards calls it. It’s a hard-boiled prison book, and the fact that the contraband isn’t the strictly illegal type doesn’t actually lessen the stakes- or the ugliness- of those bound inside. Sure, there’s an element of humor to it- I mean, they’re using classic spy drop moves to deliver Skittles and Blow Pops- but there’s also something very sharp edged, something that subtly layers through as a reminder that half the kids in juvi will graduate, not to freedom, but to far harsher imprisonments. It’s not so much a parody of those adult dangers but a foreshadowing of them.

Shreve is a smart-ass, someone pretty much incapable of quitting while he’s ahead, whose mouth runs away with him at the worst possible times, a pragmatist who understands how to work the system and has no compunctions against doing so. He needs the good favor of the kids he’s supplying, mostly because he needs their protection against the times he smarts off just a little too far. From his attitude, from his easy cynicism, it’s not hard to see him in juvi. BUT- and this is wonderful- there’s also the part of Shreve that desperately misses his little brother, that worries about him constantly. There’s the part of Shreve that misses the girlfriend he hasn’t heard from, the vulnerable goodness that’s somehow managed to survive against the obstacles in life, incarcerado and free alike. There’s the part of Shreve that can reach out to a scared new boy, and be willing to help when he recognizes the danger. Shreve could be safe if he just didn’t interfere, if he just kept his head down and served his time.

But of course, keeping his head down wasn’t what landed Shreve in juvi in the first place.

Jack’s character is, in many respects, more straightforward than Shreve, but also in a way more complicated. Shreve grew up in a hell he could at least influence to some extent; there were obstacles he could work around, he could manipulate things to at least make the best of crap situations. Jack just had hell. He’s almost painfully sweet, shy and wounded and battered by his experiences, and he clutches at that first, tenuous offer of friendship like a lifeline. He’s remarkably self-contained, so the places where he’s most interesting are, for me at least, the places where he loses that control. Self-composure is frequently a mask, something polite and affected. That loss of control is a brilliant flash much closer to who we truly are.

It’s somewhat indicative of YA fiction that most adults (not all, admittedly, but most) are categorized by both characters ands readers as either useless or antagonistic. They’re either background at best or they’re obstacles. That’s true for many of the adults in this book, but there are also a few who inhabit a more nebulous categorization. Booth, in particular, stands out. He’s a guard at the detention center, someone who delights in being a bit of a bully, but also a bit of an enabler, someone who hovers between Person of Authority and Wicked Uncle in many respects. Our first impression of him is a solid one- someone so meticulously put together that the ritual becomes its own form of intimidation, someone who threatens a great deal more than he enforces. It’s like the big, burly man who slaps the nightstick into his hand even as he winks at you. The threat, the danger, is there, and he doesn’t want you to forget it for a moment, but you also get the sense he’d rather not ever have to deliver that promised trouble. He’s an interesting character, part obstacle, part scenery, part almost-ally, and yet he also becomes an intriguingly sympathetic character.

There are other adults who make appearances of course, and they run a gamut of impressions that can bewilder the reader almost as much as the teenage boys trying to understand who they can trust. Most of the adults are little more than impressions, brief encounters that aren’t meant to linger, and yet those impressions are so well-painted that despite less than a page of contact, we find ourselves hoping that some of them will work their way back into the course of things.

The ending (no spoilers, I promise, you’re safe) is a bit abrupt, and even after re-reading it, I’m not sure if that’s because I was so absorbed in the book that reaching the last page was that much of a shock, or it’s because it’s genuinely a sudden ending. There’s certainly more to come- there are many, MANY things that have not been answered, and these characters have much more to discover about themselves and what they can do, as well as what they can and can’t have, and I definitely look forward to more of Shreve and Jack.

The Twelve-Fingered Boy, by John Hornor Jacobs, out in February 2013!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Giveaway Times Two!

September 30, 2012 at 11:59 am (Giveaway) (, , , , , , , , )

So I’m a horrible person, who feels very bad about not posting meaningful content recently because life just keeps kicking me in the pants.

Today I’d like to make that up to you, not with meaningful content unfortunately, because life is still happening in a kind of bad way at the moment, but with two giveaways.

Normally I don’t like to giveaway ARCs of books that have already been released. The first few weeks of sales are so critical for an author’s success with a given book that I don’t like to detract from that in any way. However, quite simply, the money isn’t always there. If it were, I think we’d all rush out and buy ALL THE BOOKS as soon as they came out but all too often we have to make choices. If it’s between books and food, I choose books every time, but sometimes that second option is…oh, RENT.

Recently I received two ARCs of books I’d already purchased, books that I wanted the finished hardcopies of no matter what, so I am offering them up to you. First one is Origin, by Jessica Khoury, and the second is Hidden, the third book in the Firelight series by Sophie Jordan.

All you have to do to enter is comment below and tell me which one you want and why. That’s it. (Well, and make sure your email address is tucked away there somewhere, that will be important). If you want both books, you can tell me that and why, and you can be entered for both, but you cannot WIN both- winning one will remove you from the draw for the other.

I’ll draw the winners next Sunday (7 October) and contact them, so you have a full week to enter! Feel free to spread the word (please?) but it doesn’t actually get you any extra entries.

Best of luck!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Book Review: The Diviners, by Libba Bray

August 29, 2012 at 7:20 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , )

Evie O’Neill has a posi-tute-ly neat-o party trick that lets her read memories from touching anyone’s personal possessions. Doing it at a party, however, gets her kicked out of her home and sent off to her Uncle Will, in Jazz Age New York. What should be a delightful escapade is soured by the presence of a twisted killer with a ritualistic aspect that brings Will into the investigation. As Evie reconnects with old friends and makes new ones in the heady world of Follies, fashion, and speakeasies, unearthly powers are shfiting, pulling together young men and women with unusual gifts. The Diviners are being called- and their story is only starting.

Sometimes timing sucks, because this ARC arrived right as I was supposed to be getting down to the nitty gritty of packing to move. Nitty gritty didn’t happen until the book was finished, because OH MY GOD, strap in.

As much as I want to speak about this intelligently, I’m not even sure where to start. The characters, the setting, the story, the MAJOR creep factor…there are eight million pieces to this book that all come together in this amazing manner that is just mind-blowing.

So…characters. There are a lot of them. The perspective shifts between them, some of them only with us for a chapter, or even part of a chapter, some of them prominent. In as much as you can say there’s a single MC, it’s Evie, but this is very much an ensemble cast. She’s centerstage for this one, but you get the strong feeling that the others will be taking their turns in later books. Despite the sheer number of characters to keep track of, it doesn’t prove to be a difficult or daunting task- each of them is so finely crafted, so detailed and distinct, that you can’t really confuse them. What I really love about them- all of them- is that they each have specific journeys to make. Every significant character has his or her own story arc that doesn’t end with the final page. This is the definitely the first book of a series, but we don’t have to wait for each book to see the growth. Every character has their surface layers- the slang and the parties, the devil-may-care or the dedication to a cause- but they also have layers of secrets and dark pains that define them just as much as the bobbed hair and charming smile. To talk about them individually would take up the entire review, but in a nutshell, some of the things I loved the most: Mabel’s anxieties, Jericho’s broody introspection, Sam’s adaptability, Theta’s vulnerability, Henry’s generosity, Memphis’ guilt, and Evie’s slow realization of a world beyond illegal gin and patterned stockings. Brilliant.

In opening the front cover of this book, we’re invited into Jazz Age New York, the height of the Roaring Twenties. The Great War is done, leaving in its wake a surge of nationalism and euphoria as the nation heals from the first wholescale slaughter of trench warfare. Prohibition is in effect, women have only recently won the legal right to vote, and social reform has swept the streets of the poorer parts of the city. Harlem is the center of jazz, silent pictures and elaborate burlesque stage shows are in their heyday, with the bells poised to ring their deaths with the creation of talkies. Women are bobbing their hair, showing their knees, and glorying in fashion after the deprivations of war. Slang is rich and fast, and for the flappers and their boys, every day is to be lived to the fullest, without care or concern for anything beyond right now. The details of this world envelop us, never drowning or trying too hard to set the stage or to explain, but simply bringing us into it. I mean EVERY detail, right down to word choice and the fact that you have to crank the car to get it started when it’s cold. I’m not normally a Roaring Twenties girl; I kind of overdosed on it in a phase back in high school and haven’t yet gotten past that. But this is…this book made me fall in love with the Twenties all over again. The setting wraps around us in a million different ways, some of which we don’t even notice until we specifically look for them, but it keeps us firmly planted in a time without cell phones or mini-skirts.

It’s a fantastic story, the supernatural woven through with the obsessive nature of the fanatic, a careful balance between the demonic and the divine. There’s a large degree of disgust that comes with the murders and deepens as we learn more behind the motivations and purpose of the deaths, but there’s also a pervading sense of menace. Be careful reading this book at night- some of the most superbly terrifying parts of this book are packed into just a few pages, even a paragraph or two in the midst of so much more, but you devour the pages and in the back of your mind there’s the little voice that’s singing a child’s song that just sends shivers stabbing down your spine. I don’t think it would be a Libba Bray book if it weren’t laugh out loud funny, but it’s a very different type of humor than, say, Beauty Queens, where everything was in your face and over the top and absurd. Here, the humor is part and parcel of the Roaring Twenties, when wit was fashionable and one-liners were idolized. It’s funny as hell, but it’s fast and snappy, and some of them are most enjoyable when the characters around them miss what’s being said- or why it’s funny. Just as the slang and the rhythms of speech show proof of the flawless and deep research, so does the humor.

And the fact that this is a series? Makes me jump with joy. I’m sorry- I truly am- that I can’t talk about this more coherently, but there is just SO MUCH to this book. It’s a hefty one, so it may lose some of the more impatient readers, but those who stay through til the end? Will be waiting for the next one just as much as I am.

And if you want to win an advance copy before it comes out 18 September, check out my giveaway, open til midnight ending Wednesday, 19 August!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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The Diviners Giveaway!

August 26, 2012 at 9:49 am (Giveaway) (, , , , )

I said there’d be another giveaway, right?

There’ll be an actual review for this on Wednesday, but I move tomorrow and still have a bunch to do, so once again, YOU WIN! This book absolutely blew my mind and I want to share it with you all, so I am giving away my advance copy. Seriously, you want this book; Libba Bray is an absolute genius, and despite the length and the incredible humor, you’re held in thoroughly creepy suspense the entire time.

Part of that creep factor comes from the book trailer.

Now, I’m the first to admit that I’m not a huge book trailer person. Every now and then a really, really good one comes along, but this is the first time I’ve ever been influenced to read the book based on the trailer. Normally it’s a function of wanting to read the book in spite of the trailer. (Fair’s fair, I already wanted to read The Diviners, but the trailer clinched it). If you watch the trailer before reading the book, you actually HEAR the song throughout and it’s just so…

So…

Well, you may or may not want to read this book in bed, and if you do, keep a nightlight handy.

And all you have to do to enter the giveaway is watch the trailer and tell me below what you think.

Isn’t that amazing?!

Entries will be accepted through Wednesday, August 29th, and I’ll be choosing the winners for all three giveaways bright and early Thursday morning so I can get the books out on Friday. (Haven’t seen the other giveaways? Up for grabs is Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr, and a combo pack of For Darkness Shows the Stars AND Seraphina, by Diana Peterfreund and Rachel Hartman respectively)

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Not A Book Review

August 22, 2012 at 9:55 pm (Giveaway) (, , , , , , , )

So, today is supposed to be a book review day. It’s a Wednesday (or at least it is as I’m writing this) so it’s supposed to be a book review day.

And I even finished my book yesterday- spent the entire book going o.O and LOVING IT and thinking of all the wonderful things I wanted to say about it. But even before I finished the book, The Grossness hit. I spent most of yesterday in bed with the cat, even though I was supposed to be packing, because of The Grossness. I don’t know what this thing is, if it’s a cold, if it’s sinus issues, if it’s allergies on sterioids, what, but what I do know is that it’s majorly kicking my ass. I’ve reached the point where I can barely breathe (nose stuffed, chest tight) and blowing my nose produces a feeling equivalent to getting stabbed through the ear with a knitting needle.

Fighting The Grossness all day yesterday and all day today (and today was a full work day) has left me with a mental level on par with Ron Weasley in Advanced Arithmancy. (Yes, I know he never took it- there are reasons for that.) So, incoherence is strong with this one today. Seriously, it’s disgusting how many tries it’s taken me to get things right just to this point. The thought of trying to intelligently discuss a book I loved, in all its intricacies, is actually painful.

Buuuuuuut I feel kind of guilty for piking off a review.

You get to reap the benefits of my guilt.

I am giving away a finished copy of Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars AND Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina. You can enter through Wednesday, 29 August, and I’ll contact the winner the next day.

All you have to do to enter?

Comment below with your favorite read of 2012 so far, and why you love it so much.

That’s all you have to do!

(Plus, the giveaway for the ARC of Melissa Marr’s Carnival of Souls is still active through Wednesday 29 August, and check back on Sunday for ANOTHER giveaway of the book that blew me away even before the descent of The Grossness)

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Book Review: Tiger Lily, by Jodi Lynn Anderson

August 8, 2012 at 6:45 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feathers in her hair.
But the girl with the crow feathers didn’t belong to anyone.
As Neverland teeters on the brink of massive changes, as the magic slowly fades from the world and all the unexplored corners are discovered, Tiger Lily is poised on the cusp of growing up- or not. This will be the summer that deciedes, as Englanders come to Neverland’s shores, as the Lost Boys pelt through the woods, as the pirates engage their relentless hunts, as the Sky Eaters follow the rhythms of the earth and the seasons.
All children grow up, except one.
And that isn’t Peter Pan.

This book is absolutely brilliant, in so many unexpected ways, not the least of which is the narrative concept as a whole. We’re given a first-person narration with a third-person perspective, which gives us both intimacy and distance from our main characters. Our narrator is Tink (as in Tinker Bell, yes that Tinker Bell), and she looks on with the relentless fascination of an outsider. Her inability to directly communicate with the other characters keeps her from directly influencing the action. She contributes in small ways, she is a part of things, but not in the same way a speaking character would. She’s practically an insect, easy to ignore or bat away or even not notice. It’s unique- but it’s also brilliant, because Tink gives us a far better picture of Tiger Lily than Tiger Lily herself would- the same with Peter, for that matter.

Tiger Lily is a fascinating character, largely because she’s both personable and unknowable. She builds high walls around herself, she isn’t honest with herself and therefore she’s incapable of being completely honest with others, and yet she has moments where she’s intensely vulnerable, endearing, and even sweet. These moments are few and far between, but they add into an incredibly complex character bound by shifting loyalties in a time of great change, both in her setting and in her own life. Just as Tink is an outsider to the main action of the story, Tiger Lily is an outsider to every group of which she’s a part. She doesn’t belong with the other Sky Eater girls- she isn’t soft and domestically skilled like they are- but neither is she welcomed by the boys, who feel threatened by her hunting and forestry skills. Despite being thoroughly welcomed by the Lost Boys, she isn’t one of them either, and no matter how much she runs with them, she never becomes one of them. She’s always Other. Even in other, temporary, alliances, she’s always set apart. Even with her closest friends, she lacks the same qualities that mark Pine Sap and Moon Eye as similar. It isn’t that she’s unfeeling, but more that she doesn’t always know what to do with those feelings. They’re as alien to her as she is to others.

This is largely Tiger Lily’s story, but she’s not the one telling us, and I love that, love that Tink gives us an honesty of which Tiger Lily is incapable. Not that Tiger Lily would deliberately obfusticate, but rather that she can’t see things clearly enough to give us the real story.

The characters in this book are stunningly, intricately drawn, filled with equal measures savagery and grace. Peter is a wild thing, a mercurial creature of fancies and shifting moods, of vindictiveness and kindness, a childlike delight at odds with a merciless, dispassionate killer. His attitudes and whims snap through extremes, leaving everyone else scrambling to catch up, often with no rhyme or reason to the change. The Lost Boys are alternately savages following the worst of the bunch and endearing, sweet children desperate for a touch of softness and familiarity. We don’t see many of the pirates, but those we do are drawn with a surprisingly sensitive hand. Captain Hook, especially, emerges not as the ineffectual fop of Disney’s…thing, nor does he have the tightly contained barbarity hidden beneath a thin layer of ultra-civility and class with a brutal ability for emotional manipulation that we see in Dustin Hoffman and Jason Isaacs’ portrayals in Hook (1991) and Peter Pan (2003) respectively. This Hook is a broken man whose savagery and uneducated intelligence put him above the others he draws to his banner, but is ultimately burdened beneath the weight of his own failures and inadequacies. He’s a surprisingly sympathetic character. Smee, who is usally just shy of a bumbling idiot, becomes an unexpectedly (but thoroughly) creepy individual capable of giving you nightmares. Pine Sap and Moon Eye, Tiger Lily’s friends within the Sky Eaters, are soft and patient, their deep strengths hidden beneath visible frailties.

Perhaps the most surprising and most sympathetically drawn character is that of Tik Tok, the Sky Eaters shaman and Tiger Lily’s adopted father. In blunt terms, Tik Tok is either a hermaphrodite or a non-operative transexual. In more genuine terms, he was born to both genders, equal parts man and woman in a single mind, soul, and body. He wears his hair long and luxuriantly braided, loves fanciful dresses and decorations, but he’s also a wise man with a keen sensitivity to the human condition, a healer with a gentle touch and an endless patience, a father who loves his daughter beyond words or limits, someone with a boundless curiosity for the world beyond and a deep satisfaction in the world immediately around him. Tik Tok is an incredible character, standing fully on his own but also drawing a striking parallel to the infant girl he found under a tiger lily blossom and kept for his own. Tik Tok straddles genders in the same way Tiger Lily straddles loyalties. Male and Female, Sky Eater and Lost Boy, the two parts are always innate but in direct opposition. As long as those elements are in balance, Tik Tok and Tiger Lily are okay, but as soon as those elements shift, once they fracture, so too does the whole person. What happens with those slip-faults is heartbreaking.

This is a Neverland equal parts savagery and beauty, where the exquisite lives side by side with the menacing, and often hand in hand. Mermaids may be lovely but they’re deadly. Lost Boys may be sweet, but they can kill. It’s a land that’s still untamed, a tiny corner of the world that hasn’t yet been colonized, that still holds wonders, but it’s a desperate beauty with a lot of rough edges. Within all those vibrant colors are a lot of shadows, and a lot of dark things thrive there. Wendy, when she eventually comes- not by fairy dust but by an Englander missionary vessel- is a vivid spot of white in an otherwise multi-color world. She’s clean and soft in a world that’s anything but, but she has a different kind of Otherness than Tiger Lily. Where Tiger Lily is frequently in competition- both with Peter and the boys- defeating them at many of their own games, Wendy simply cheers them on and doesn’t try to play. Tiger Lily accepts her world as it is, even when it’s painful, but Wendy simply expects her surroundings to conform to her desires, because she’s never known anything different. Peter is the one who holds Tiger Lily’s heart, but Wendy is the one who breaks it.

This is a deeply sad book, where even the moments of joy are shadowed by the lingering darkness, but ultimately redemptive in how we choose to define hope. In a land where one stops growing older when they’re caught up in a Significant Event, this is a beautiful story about growing up with all its sharp edges and ugly truths. This may be a book to read slowly, but it’s definitely not one to be missed.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Carnival of Souls Giveaway!

August 5, 2012 at 10:39 am (Giveaway) (, , , , )

Have I caught your attention yet?

This is kind of a crazy month for me; I’m packing up the apartment in prep for a move at the end of the month, I have to actually figure out the logistics of said move, and I’m forcing myself to work through severe heat with no air conditioning (which SUCKS!).

So I want to do something fun.

My birthday is at the end of the month, and I’d like to share the day with you. I’m giving away an ARC of Melissa Marr’s Carnival of Souls, out in store September 4th, plus swag from Jill Hathaway, Kathleen Peacock, Hannah Moskowitz, Nova Ren Suma, and Sophie Jordan.

You’ve got three ways to enter, and they’re all easy. Plus you can do all three for three entries!

Method 1: follow me on twitter at @dothutchison
Method 2: like my facebook page. As I get more information about the book, and as we get closer to having things like swag and ARCs, I’ll post things up there as well.
Method 3: add Elsinore Drowning on Goodreads

If you’ve already done any of these, just let me know (and list your handle) and you’ll have that entry. (Shameless self promotion? Yes- but it’s my birthday gift to myself) Just make sure you comment and tell me which ones you do and who you are(new or current), so I can count it all up.

Entries will be accepted through 29 August (my birthday!) and I’ll contact the winner the next day.

And don’t forget, this is the beauty you’re up for:

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Book Review: Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman

July 25, 2012 at 6:38 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

The kingdom of Goredd is on the verge of celebrating forty years of an uneasy truce with the dragons, and Seraphina Dombegh, assistant to the court composer, has more reason for uneasiness than most. Tension between humans and dragons is rising, helped along by the mysterious death of Prince Rufus, the anti-dragon sentiments of the Sons of St. Ogdo, and the basic incompatibility of the ultra-logical dragon mind and the passionate emotional range of the humans. As the city prepares for an influx of dragon arrivals, Seraphina struggles to stay unnoticed, not something made easy by the attention of the court composer, the dragon embassy, the princess, and the princess’ bastard fiance, as well as the brilliance of her pure magical gift.
Seraphina has a foot in both worlds, and if she’s not careful, they’ll both come crashing down on her.

Clear a few afternoons for this book: slow and lingering, it’s the kind of book that wraps around you and just doesn’t let go. This is one to savor.

The single biggest part of that is language. Oh my God, the language in this book. Music is a significant part of this, not just as story but as character, and the language in this book is as precise and passionate as a musical form. The voice teeters between dryly factual and painfully emotional, an audible fault line between the pieces of who and what Seraphina is. She is, at turns, wry, funny, petulant, logical, endearing, brilliant, brutally honest, and thoroughly deceptive. She can be forgiving and hard, suspicious and trusting, exasperated and fond in the same breath. She’s an amazing character, as well as an amazing narrator. Everything about this book is a love song to language, an opera captured in letters rather than notes, each pitch perfect and never less than purposefully dischordant.

Perhaps because of the fascination with language, because of the level of detail paid to the rhythms and multiple layers of words, this isn’t a book that moves quickly. For all that it takes place within a few days, it feels like longer. For me, this wasn’t a book I could sit down and read straight through. I had to take it in sections over the course of several days, because otherwise I felt like I wasn’t giving due appreciation to the beauty and purpose of the language. The plot itself is fairly straightforward, but the personalities twist things around until you have the true drama of this story. On a very basic level, humans and dragons are incapable of understanding each other. That fundamental incompatability drives us forward, largely because it forces us to try. Even Seraphina, who understands dragons perhaps better than anyone else, has gaps where the communication simply falters. Elements like sarcasm and imagination- the emotional outpouring of true music that doesn’t seek technical perfection- are antithesis to the dragon mentality, but the sheer scope of what humans can accomplish within that range of art and feeling is fascinating to them. As Seraphina says, the dragons look at humans like particularly intriguing cockroaches. There’s nothing to keep them from squishing the irritants once their curiosity is sated.

As much as language, the characters are a work of art. Nearly all of the significant characters are exquisitely drawn with rich flaws and an eye for detail, as well as surprising depth. Ardmagar Comonot, the leading general of the dragons, is particularly (and bizarrely) appealing. Many of the dragons experience intense emotional confusion when the condense into human form, known as a saarantras, as the human instincts and senses overwhelm the much more factual dragon mind. The Ardmagar is no exception, but unlike most others, he both delights in and despises these maelstroms of experience. Even things like taste and sound, the rub of different fabric textures against the skin, even the impulses of fear and lust, they’re bizarre and uncomfortable, but also intriguing. We see other dragons struggle against this psychomachia with varying degrees of familiarity and success. For Seraphina’s tutor Orma, nearly as close to a human as is possible for a dragon to be, intense emotions are still unsettling, but at least outwardly familiar enough to be identified and categorized. Classified. In Orma, we see the true evolution of the human experience in the mind and soul of a dragon. It’s not that we ever see him as less than a dragon- in Seraphina’s rich, wry, and compassionate narration, we get to see all the reminders of what he is- but that we see him not merely study the human condition, but rather accept it as a consequence of his choices and the connections he carefully makes.

One of the areas in which we see the greatest degree of detailed variance is in Seraphina’s Garden of Grotesques. We don’t meet many of these mindscape inhabitants, but those we do are sympathetically, frighteningly drawn with rich idiosyncracies. Loud Lad’s restless tinkering, Fruit Bat’s simple contentedness, Fusspot’s prickliness, are all pulled into Seraphina’s own interactions, as memories shade her actions and she struggles to keep these inexplicable personalities contained in her mental garden. The shifting nature of the Garden, the manuevers she has to attempt to keep it intact, all tell into her daily encounters in the outer world.

One of the things I absolutely adored about this book was the dynamic, at times bizarre, between Seraphina, Prince/Captain Lucian Kiggs, and Princess Glisselda. Kiggs, as he prefers to be called, is a wonderful construction, at times intensely personal and at others coldly formal. He vacillates in his approach, but never in his complete, and sometimes brutal, honesty. He cares a great deal about what he does, about his purpose and his duty, but even in his more obstinate moods, he still has a little boy’s charm that makes him endearing as well as attractive. He’s comfortable reaching out to people on many levels, always aware that he’s just a little out of place, sometimes aware that the vague sense of displacement actually makes others more comfortable with him. Glisselda is, at first, a flightly, vindictive terror with a misplaced sense of fun and an overly developed sense of cattiness. And yet, there’s something charming about her, and as the story progresses, we see more layers unfold within her. We never lose our initial impression- indeed, that seems to be something she very carefully cultivates- but we’re left with the impression of a young woman who will one day be a truly formidable queen. Where her knowledge occasionally has gaps, her perceptiveness and cleverness are spot on. She, Kiggs, and Seraphina form a mystifying but powerful triangle, and if we spend half the book trying to figure out why two of those three pieces are so insistent on this partnership, we also thoroughly enjoy it. They work extremely well off of each other, both in a personal sense as well as a political one.

And I love the layers of political intrigue in this. It goes well beyond the “they’re bad, we’re good” inanity and into the grey areas of specific treaty language, the actual art of living with such uneasiness woven through the society, and the nebulous loyalties of those within the court. We don’t just move through the halls of the palace, we’re actually living there, with all the petty rivalries, false friendships, unexpected alliances, and exasperating duties that come with that privilege.

Do yourself a favor and really give yourself time to savor this book- much like Laini Taylor’s The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, this is a book that will make you fall in love with language.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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