Title: To Say Nothing of the Dog
Author: Connie Willis
Publisher: Turtleback
Year published: 1999

Recommended: I lot of people adore this book with good reason. I’d suggest starting elsewhere with Willis; the books I’ve read by her are Bellwether (comedic, but tighter) and Passage (not so tight, more serious). Once you’re a devotee, and know whether you like her humor, pick this one up. And be prepared for a slow start.

First off, long silence due to finals, work, travel, other boring excuses. Onward. Short review, not much to say, been a few weeks since I read it.

I’ve tried to read this book a total of four times. The first three I got about thirty to fifty pages in before becoming frustrated and setting it aside (each time, intending to pick it back up). It finally ended up under my bathroom sink, languishing in solitude, until it came up as Calico Reaction’s book club selection. I decided to give it 100 pages this time.

And those 100 pages were a slog, I must admit. The character was confused, I was more confused, and the book seemed like a string of unconnected anecdotes and bizarre happenings. Luckily, on about page 96, Verity shows up. And she brings the plot with her.

I’ve read two of Connie Willis’ books previously, and if I hadn’t adored both of them I think I never would have finished this book. I’m glad I did. With the appearance of Verity and a sense of purpose and direction (still muddled, but now in an amusing, serves-the-story sort of way) I sank right into the voice and the madcap Victorian adventuring. I admit I still have very little idea of what happened to the bird stump and why, but by the end of the book I cared very little about the damn thing and its place in the story, and was far more concerned with the various romantic pairings history (and narrative) demanded, but I’m just a GIRL that way. In any case, I’m so woefully sloppy as a reader that if I figure things out ahead of time it’s a fair bet the mystery was incredibly obvious, so I’m generally used to being befuddled right up until the end. Willis explained things well enough at the conclusion to at least give me the illusion of understanding what the hell had been going on for four hundred or so pages, so I was satisfied.

It’s also worth noting that, unlike Calico Reaction, I love the Victorian era, which perhaps explains MY ambivalence about steampunk (I’m picky; also, I see way too much of it). I love the strict social code and all the ways it was exploited, contorted, and ignored to suit the situation. Part of this is my fascination with “social vocabulary,” which is a topic I won’t get into now. Anyhow, I’m not normally one for comedic books, but with the addition of a destination and trajectory this was right up my alley, and I do adore dogs and cats, so there’s that.

But really, and I don’t mean to harp on the same thing over and over, there’s no excuse for those first hundred pages. Unless you absolutely adore the wandering, purposeless humor from the start, and are willing to put up with utter confusion, they’re very difficult to get through. If I hadn’t known and trusted the author I would have abandoned it a fourth time, and that would have been a shame.


No review today because, among other things, I’m hip-deep in my own writing. I’ll put something together later this week to make up for it. Instead, I’m subjecting you to What I Read In February! I’ve linked to the reviews I’ve written.

You can find my January list here, at my personal journal.

22. Ice by Sarah Beth Durst
23. Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell
24. Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
25. Bury Me Standing by Isabel Fonseca
26. The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
27. If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson
28. Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier
29. Monster by Walter Dean Myers
30. Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
31. Crashed by Robin Wasserman
31. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
32. Kindred by Octavia Butler
33. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
34. Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe
35. Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

Genre breakdown:

YA contemporary fantasy/supernatural (5), YA realistic/lit fic (2), YA science fiction (1), YA Fantasy (1), Nonfiction (1), Contemporary/urban fantasy (1), Science fiction (1), Realistic/lit fic (2), Misc (1)

Now, the science fiction title is Kindred, and that classification is borderline. I put it in there mostly because it does have a speculative element and it’s Butler, who I think of as a science fiction writer regardless of what’s actually on the page. The Lovely Bones has a supernatural element but I listed it as lit/realistic because I think that’s how it’s been marketed and viewed. And Fingersmith is historical fiction, which may deserve its own category.

I have to admit I am burned out on YA. I’ve been reading tons of it because a) it’s fun, and b) it’s what I’m writing at the moment, but I’m probably going to take a break from it for a while. I have a few YA books on my TBR pile, but once those are through I’m going to focus on other things. I’m also obviously behind on some of my “reading variety” goals, so I’d like to wrangle my list a bit more in line with that.

Stand-out favorites for this month were The Lovely Bones, in part because I expected to hate it; Fingersmith, which is the book Wilkie Collins would write if he was alive today writing about the Victorian era and also a lesbian; Kindred, because yaknow, Octavia Butler, how can you go wrong; and The Demon’s Lexicon, because it was just so much damn fun.

And now, to work.

Title: Give Up the Ghost
Author: Megan Crewe
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Year Published: 2009

Recommended: Yes, with the usual caveats about YA. This is a very high-school-centric book, so if you’re not keen to return to those dingy halls, you probably want to skip it, but otherwise it’s a short, interesting read with a sense of humor but a serious handling of some difficult issues.

Spoilers: Yes, in fairly general terms, but specific enough that if you avoid spoilers religiously, you shouldn’t go beyond the first two paragraphs (after the jump).

This conversation (mostly) occurred yesterday:

Me: So I read this book today–
Caroline: FREAK
Me: –that’s about this girl who can talk to ghosts, so she uses them as spies to get blackmail material, because admit it, that’s what you do with powers like that.
Caroline: I’d use them to get peoples’ pin numbers.
Me: I’m glad that I’m your friend, and also that you can’t actual talk to ghosts.
Caroline: *looks mysterious*

Ahem. So, I think the premise of this novel is kind of brilliant, because I may be a bad person but I would totally use ghosts as spies. Granted, Cass has the excuse of revenge—her best friend turned on her in middle school, and Cass has been a social outcast ever since. Her blackmail is as much a defense mechanism as anything else, since it’s the one thing that gives her power over her tormentors.
Continue reading ‘Review: GIVE UP THE GHOST by Megan Crewe’

As of this past week, I’m serving as the Editorial Assistant/Slush Slave for Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Very exciting! My picture is up on the website and everything!

For those that don’t know, BCS is an online magazine for secondary-world fantasy (exact guidelines here). It’s an SFWA-qualified market, which means that sales to BCS will count towards membership qualifications. So if you have something that suits, submit away!

First off, I’d like to point you all to Unleaded: Fuel for Writers, a blog run by my friends Renee and Day. With podcasts! The theme is 60 seconds of writerly inspiration. I’ll be lending my pen keyboard to the cause by writing 60-word mini-reviews either twice a month or once a week. My first one is up now, so check it out. Pretty please!

Secondly, writing! I’m doing it. The last few months have been pretty dry on the writing front; I’ve spent a lot of time noodling with various projects, trying to figure out which one I want to work on next. And then I glanced back at my finished manuscript (following a very nice rejection), gasped, and frantically scribbled three pages of handwritten notes about things that NEEDED TO CHANGE RIGHT NOW. So, it’s not exactly forward progress, but it’s progress. The overhaul should be done within about a month (hopefully) and THEN I’ll have to decide what to work on next.

Except, of course, that I’m going to be doing a brainstorming workshop thingamajig (ok, how awesome is it that spellcheck recognizes that as a word?), for which I need a synopsis of a project. I thought I’d decided which one, and then I started to actually work on it, and then I started to hate it. So now I’m back to poking at my infinity+1 novel ideas and hoping that one transforms into a bootiful butterfly sometime in the next few days. So, I’m looking at: an Urban Fantasy (with demons! and badass grandmothers! and a girl with blue hair [who dies]!), a YA small-town fantasy/murder mystery (with a boy mc! and high school drama! and bigotry!), a fantasy (with not-Spartans! and an evil empire who might actually be the good guys! and sex with gods!), or a YA werewolf novel (with liberal arts colleges! and feminism! and brooding!). There are others, but they’re not at the point where I could do anything but “this is the concept, and then things happen but I’m not sure what” as a synopsis.

Maybe I’ll roll a die for it.

Author: Robin Wasserman
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Year Published: 2008 & 2009

Recommended: There is a lot of teenage stupidity (and adult stupidity) on display, which can get frustrating, and the books hit on one of my biggest pet peeves (religious zealotry with no balancing moderates), but they’re engaging stories, and I’m excited to see where the series goes. Because of the intense teenagerness (it’s a word), I don’t think non-YA readers would really get into these, but afficianados of the psuedo-genre should be safe giving these a shot.

Spoilers: Very general spoilers, nothing that I think would diminish the experience.

The basic premise: Lia Kahn is rich, beautiful, and popular. And then she dies. Her parents opt to have her mind uploaded into a mechanical body. The process is still fairly new, and most people seem to agree that she may have Lia’s memories, she may think she’s Lia, but she’s just a machine. In SKINNED, Lia struggles to come to terms with her transformation and tries to reclaim her old life. In CRASHED, Lia lives with other mechs, working to carve out a place in the world for people like her, who may not be people at all.

Continue reading ‘Review: SKINNED and CRASHED by Robin Wasserman’

Title: The Demon’s Lexicon
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Year Published: 2009

Recommended: Most certainly, to those who can stand a little angst and are interested in the concept/genre. If you don’t tend to like urban fantasy (or, to a lesser extent, YA) this isn’t going to be the book to astound all genre expectations, but I don’t see that as a problem. I’ve heard enough about “transcending the genre” to last a lifetime.

Spoilers: I avoid them, I really do I swear. Mostly. I’m bad at this, aren’t I? But I won’t give away the ending.

I think perhaps I should surrender myself to the fact that whatever else I read in between, it’s the YA that I want to review, or at least that I feel most qualified to comment on.

The Demon’s Lexicon has been buzzing around my brain for a while, annoying me into reading it. I heard about it ages ago, before it actually came out, and then I started to see its eye-searing cover (oh god the colors oh god) at the book store. (There will apparently be a new cover released, which while still not my cup of tea at least looks like it hasn’t been stained by the guts of evil clowns.) Then I wandered over to the author’s blog, and found her sense of humor right up my alley, chuckled my way through some of her reviews (which contributed no little amount to my insane library stack) and finally succumbed and put the Demon’s Lexicon on hold at Ye Olde Splorg.*

The basic premise: Nick travels around with his older brother Alan and his mother. Dear old mum, who hates and fears Nick, used to be a human-sacrificing, demon-summoning magician, and now the trio are on the run from a bunch of other magicians, who like to kill people and cause lots of property damage. Meanwhile, the fairly innocent Mae and Jamie are looking for help after Jaime has been marked by a demon, priming him for possession. They go to Nick and Alan for help just as a magician shows up, and what with the dead body on the floor and all it’s a bit hard for the boys to pretend they have no idea what Mae and Jaime are talking about. Cue hijinks.

Apologies for being more blather-y than usual, it’s the schoolwork.
Continue reading ‘Review: THE DEMON’S LEXICON by Sarah Rees Brennan’